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Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 14:25 UK
Inside Heysham's special church
St. Peter's Church at Heysham
St. Peter's Church celebrated its millennium in 1967

Heysham, best known for its power station and views across Morecambe Bay is also home to a 1,000 year old church.

St. Peter's Church by the headland celebrated its millennium in 1967 and is even mentioned in the Doomsday Book.

It's come along way since the days when the floor was made from straw and cow dung and is now a Grade I listed building.

The church is also home to a Viking gravestone.

The first thing you notice when entering St. Peter's, and showing the age of the building, is the west door beneath the west window. It's thought the doorway was built between 750 to 800 and appears very short - this is no reflection on the size of worshippers past, but because the floor has been raised over the years. Originally the church would have had a floor of rushes or straw and cow dung which would have been padded out and made into a solid surface. It was many centuries later before stone floors were to be used, as local gentry wished to be buried inside the church if they could.

The chancel screen is reputedly from Cockersands Abbey
The chancel screen is reputedly from Cockersands Abbey

There was an extension to the building in 1864. At the west end of the church there is an infill where there was once a doorway. It's thought that this was the entrance to a balcony on the north wall. Prior to that there were two balconies; two families who were rivals each had their own balcony and entrance as they would not share! Perhaps that's why the rector at the time decided to extend the church, so he could remove the balconies and unite the rival families.

The chancel arch is a mysterious piece of stonework. Several experts have been to the church to debate whether or not it is Norman. It seems to have been re-built on several occasions and may even have Anglo Saxon origins. The chancel screen is reputedly from Cockersands Abbey when it was dissolved in the 1530s, though the screen was not added until 100 years later.

The hogsback stone, said to be a gravestone carved between 930 and 970
The hogsback stone, said to be carved between 930 and 970

St Andrew's memorial chapel was added in the 19th century and it was during the excavation of the foundations in 1864 that a stone tomb was discovered. In the tomb was a skeleton, clasping the remains of a communion chalice to his chest. This chalice is now in a glass case in the wall of the memorial chapel. The tomb can be seen in the grounds of the church as you approach the main entrance.

In front of the memorial chapel is the hogsback stone, said to be a gravestone carved between 930 and 970 - the time of the arrival of the Vikings into the area - and found over 200 years ago behind the church. Unfortunately the grave only contained a rusty spear.

Carved into the rock of the headland are six stone coffins
Carved into the rock of the headland are six stone coffins

A 13th century grave marker can be found inside the church, presumably in memory of a local dignatory and discoverd in the 19th century. The carvings of a cross and a sword indicate a person of high status.

St Patrick's Chapel is a ruined building which stands on a headland above St Peter's Church. Next to the chapel, and carved into the rock, are six stone coffins overlooking the cliff. There is a rebate in the top of each to take a lid, and a hole at the top to take a cross, but it is unlikely that they were burial places because of their small size, though they could have been repositories for bones.

St. Peter's Church was 1000 years old in 1967 and the hundreds of visitors every year are taken by the view of Morecambe Bay and the sands around Heysham. Visitors are welcome to visit St Peter's, but large parties are asked to contact the parish office in advance, so a guide can be arranged on 07553 402271




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